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Surveying the lands of California since 1982

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Professional qualifications

   1. Understanding land surveyor licensure in California 
   2. Determining the surveyor's current license status 
   3. Examining the land surveyor's other professional credentials
   4. CFedS - Certified Federal Surveyor designation

The land surveyor's education

   5. Understanding educational qualifications for land surveyors
   6. Is the land surveyor up-to-date?

The practice of land surveying in California

   7. What constitutes the practice of land surveying?

Barbed-wire fence along encroachment in San Bernardino, California
Evaluating the Land Surveyor's Professional Credentials

+  Examining a land surveyor's qualifications
+  Evaluating the education qualifications of a land surveyor
+  What constitutes the practice of land surveying?

The land surveyor's education

5. Understanding educational qualifications for land surveyors

Individual land surveyors in California possess differing levels of education. A few are graduates of fine colleges and universities that offer specific degrees in land surveying, while others learned at the "school of hard knocks". Reputable land surveyors exist in both camps, but you should ask the surveyor where they studied and what they studied. Ask the surveyor if their course of study included relevant advanced land surveying topics such as geodesy, the public lands survey system, and advanced boundary reestablishment.

6. Is the land surveyor up-to-date?

The land surveying profession is continually evolving. New legal opinions are issued by the courts, better software tools emerge, and advancements in measurement and mapping technology are constant. Ask the land surveyor for examples of how he or she has remained relevant in the profession. Do they attend professional development seminars and educational conferences on a regular basis? You'll benefit by trusting your project to a practitioner who is up to speed with the latest regulations, techniques and best practices.

Professional qualifications

1. Understanding land surveyor licensure in California

It is unlawful for anyone to provide land surveying in California unless he or she is currently licensed as a Professional Land Surveyor, a "P.L.S."  [1]. Land surveyors were the first design professionals to be licensed in California; our profession of chaining the land in the golden state has a regulatory history dating back to 1891. Regulation of the profession safeguards the public welfare and the real property rights of the people of California.

Education and experience requirements vary widely from state to state. In California, surveyors are required to have a minimum of six years of qualifying experience and to pass a slate of rigorous examinations before the state board issues a license.

[1] With a single exception: Civil Engineers licensed prior to January 1, 1982 (those with license numbers lower that 48676) were "grandfathered in" and are still allowed to practice land surveying. 

2. Determining the surveyor's current license status

All land surveying in California must be conducted under the direct supervision of a Professional Land Surveyor. It's easy to find out if an individual is duly licensed in California. Simply navigate to the State of California Board of Registration at Make sure to check the status of the licensee and to confirm that the surveyor has a "clear" record.

The State Board of Registration requires any business offering land surveying services to file an "Organizational Record" and declare the names of each land surveyor in responsible charge at the firm. It's a very good idea to call the board and verify that the organizational record is on file, and that the person you are working with is a registered licensee of the firm. It's a serious violation of board rules for a company to fail to file this document and to keep it current; any entity that has not done so should be reported to the board. 

3. Examining the land surveyor's other professional credentials

Beyond basic licensing, what additional professional credentials does the land surveyor who will be determining the boundaries of your valuable land have? Is the surveyor licensed in other states, for example? Gaining registration in more than one state can be an indication that the land surveyor is a serious player in the profession. At a minimum, it is an indication that multiple state professional licensing boards with differing professional standards vetted, tested, and determined the surveyor to be qualified to practice land surveying in their jurisdictions. See Douglas Bell's professional credentials.

4. CFedS - Certified Federal Land Surveyor designation

Is the land surveyor a CFedS? The CFedS certification program was developed by the Bureau of Land Management to train state registered professional land surveyors to perform land boundary surveys to federal standards. The program has enhanced professional knowledge of the Public Land Survey System and elevated the level of expertise for those conducting work on public lands.

The CFedS training regimen is rigorous. Fewer than 100 California Professional Land Surveyors gained certification in the first six years of the program. Gaining CFedS certification is an excellent gauge of the land surveyor's ongoing commitment to professional excellence.

CFedS training is designed to cover the following 21 competencies:
The practice of land surveying in California

7. What constitutes the practice of land surveying?

An excerpt [2] from Section §8771 of the State of California Business & Professions Code (Land Surveyors Act):
8726. Land surveying defined 

A person, including any person employed by the state or by a city, county, or city and county within the state, practices land surveying within the meaning of this chapter who, either in a public or private capacity, does or offers to do any one or more of the following:

(a) Locates, relocates, establishes, reestablishes, or retraces the alignment or elevation for any of the fixed works embraced within the practice of civil engineering, as described in Section 6731.

(b) Determines the configuration or contour of the earth's surface, or the position of fixed objects above, on, or below the surface of the earth by applying the principles of mathematics or photogrammetry.

(c) Locates, relocates, establishes, reestablishes, or retraces any property line or boundary of any parcel of land, right-of-way, easement, or alignment of those lines or boundaries.

(d) Makes any survey for the subdivision or resubdivision of any tract of land. For the purposes of this subdivision, the term "subdivision" or "resubdivision" shall be defined to include, but not limited to, the definition in the Subdivision Map Act (Division 2 (commencing with Section 66410) of Title 7 of the Government Code) or the Subdivided Lands Law (Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 11000) of Part 2 of Division 4 of this Code).

(e) By the use of the principles of land surveying determines the position for any monument or reference point which marks a property line, boundary, or corner, or sets, resets, or replaces any such monument or reference point.

(f) Geodetic or cadastral surveying. As used in this chapter, geodetic surveying means performing surveys, in which account is taken of the figure and size of the earth to determine or predetermine the horizontal or vertical positions of fixed objects thereon or related thereto, geodetic control points, monuments, or stations for use in the practice of land surveying or for stating the position of fixed objects, geodetic control points, monuments, or stations by California Coordinate System coordinates.

(g) Determines the information shown or to be shown on any map or document prepared or furnished in connection with any one or more of the functions described in subdivisions (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), and (f).

(h) Indicates, in any capacity or in any manner, by the use of the title "land surveyor" or by any other title or by any other representation that he or she practices or offers to practice land surveying in any of its branches.

(i) Procures or offers to procure land surveying work for himself, herself, or others.

(j) Manages, or conducts as manager, proprietor, or agent, any place of business from which land surveying work is solicited, performed or practiced.

(k) Coordinates the work of professional, technical, or special consultants in connection with the activities authorized by this chapter.

(l) Determines the information shown or to be shown within the description of any deed, trust deed, or other title document prepared for the purpose of describing the limit of real property in connection with any one or more of the functions described in subdivisions (a) to (f), inclusive.

(m) Creates, prepares, or modifies electronic or computerized data in the performance of the activities described in subdivisions (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (k) and (l).

(n) Renders a statement regarding the accuracy of maps or measured survey data.

Any department or agency of the state or any city, county, or city and county that has an unregistered person in responsible charge of land surveying work on January 1, 1986, shall be exempt from the requirement that the person be licensed as a land surveyor until such time as the person currently in responsible charge is replaced. 
The review, approval, or examination by a governmental entity of documents prepared or performed pursuant to this section shall be done by, or under the direct supervision of, a person authorized to practice land surveying.

[2] This excerpt from California law may have been edited to provide relevant portions in a limited space. Refer to the complete text of the statutes and laws for full meaning and context.

  1. History of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS)
  2. History of Title and General History
  3. Survey Records
  4. Title Records
  5. Administration
  6. Concepts and Origin of PLSS Federal Boundary Law
  7. General Concepts and Origin of Indian Boundary Law
  8. Concepts of Title and Property Rights
  9. Concepts of Legal Land Descriptions
10. Definitions
11. Records Utilization
12. Types of Evidence
13. Evaluation of Evidence and Corner Placement
14. Restoration of Lost Corner Methods
15. Restoration of Lost Corner Calculations
16. Water Boundaries
17. Subdivision of Fractional Sections
18. Subdivision of Regular Sections
19. General Subdivision of Sections
20. Project Documentation/Preparation of the Survey Record
21. Boundary Standards
What Others Say     

"Thank you so much for the informative and thorough presentation this morning! Great Job!  I believe that the issues are now clear regarding all the restrictions on our site."

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Los Angeles Community
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Our Story
Our Clients
Selecting a Surveyor
Land Survey Info
When You Retain Us
Property Line Surveys

​About the Author:

Douglas Bell, PLS, is a Professional Land Surveyor licensed in four western states, and is a CFedS, a BLM Certified Federal Land Surveyor. He provides a range of property line, ALTA, boundary survey, topographic mapping, easement determination, encroachment investigation, and utility location services.

Mr. Bell provides land surveying services to engineers, architects, attorneys, and other land professionals in the private and public sectors in Southern California, primarily in Los Angeles County, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange County. He can be reached via email:

25 year member of the California Land Surveyors Association
Doug Bell is a CFedS - a Certified Federal Surveyor
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